Ok I admit it the title was purely to get you to read past it and into guest blog v2, but I promise I will chat about a fell at some point. So it’s April and again Bex and I have been lured into the wilderness up north, where it is cold and wet which is compensated by the ale being good and of course the company. After last year’s endeavours of walking up steep hills and rocky paths ending in sore feet and blisters, and worst of all no signs of any refreshment stops, the in laws were under strict orders to find suitable outdoor activities with pubs. A task which they took so seriously the pregnant lady even got to vet the routes.Continue reading
We had another beautiful day today and decided to a bit of research for Bex and Estelle’s visit. In other words look at activities that are not too strenuous and have a pub half way round. I know that Steve from West Lakes Adventure hires bikes in Nether Wasdale so we planned a ride from there up to Wasdale Head. Continue reading
and so we decided to walk to Styhead and then make a decision on whether to go for the summit, climb up to Windy Gap and then return via Beck Head or to traverse under the Napes.
All week we have had sub-zero temperatures and the fells have looked very inviting. However, I have had to be at work. Mark and I hatched a plan to make an early start on Saturday and to get some winter climbing. The weather had a different idea and on Friday evening it rained heavily in St Bees and put down between 6 inches and a foot of new snow on the fells.Our trouble was getting to somewhere we could access the fells from. At Gosforth the road up to Wasdale was very icy and so we decided to head to Santon Bridge and then to park under Irton Pike and walk up to the top of Greathall Gill and have a look to see if there was anything interesting there. It took over an hour to reach the top of the gully but it contained plenty of snow at the ground was frozen (at least at the top). The guidebook mentions two short icefalls halfway up so we descended on the right of the gill until we were level with the falls. Here we geared up and went to ‘have a look’. There was some ice but also plenty of water so we followed the stream in the bottom of the gill climbing the odd section of easy-angled ice and investigating a few interesting looking side gullys. despite carrying two ropes and a rack we never needed them and enjoyed pottering around. Towards the top we spotted an impressive series of icicles which could perhaps make a very steep short climb if they had time to fully form. To finish we chose a ramp on the right hand side, it was a mixture of snow on rock and snow on turf, the key to feeling secure was to find the turf and avoid the slabby rock.
From the top a one hour walk brought us back to the car. It had not been the ice climbing that we went looking for but was definitely interesting mountaineering, and given the conditions I was happy with the result.
We knew it would be a longish evening out. I (optimistically) estimated 1.5 hrs to the climb, 1.5 hrs on the climb, 30 min descent to our bags and 1 hr back to the car, a total of 4.5 hours. We left the green at 17:30 so a 22:00 return was on the cards. The weather was warm, with a gentle breeze. However, the slog up Gavel Neese left me a little on the hot and sweaty side. Tophet Wall itself was in the shade, and looked an impressively steep piece of rock.After gearing up with minimal faffing I spent a few minutes finding the exact start of the climb. There is a good spike on the right for a runner before heading up some delicate moves up and left into the crack. From there the route heads up right to a small ledge. This section had a little more loose rock that may be expected on a three star climb, perhaps due to the hard winter.
The second pitch was described as bold in the guidebook, this was enough of an excuse for Mark to offer me the next lead as well. I gratefully accepted and headed up the short wall with no protection. About 5 metres above the previous belay a ledge gave good gear and a traverse left to a crack and groove. This was committing but not too difficult and lead to the spike belay before the famous hand traverse. From here the view across to Lingmell, Broad and Ill Crags and Great End was fabulous, we could even see Sprinkling Tarn.
The rest of the route can be climbed as two or one pitch depending on which guidebook you read. The new Gable and Pillar guide suggests one pitch and that is what I did. However, the rope drag made the final moves much harder than necessary and I would recommend taking an intermediate stance if you do not have a lot in hand.
The hand traverse had good footholds too so it was never too strenuous. Then a diagonal rightward line lead to a ledge (possible belay) before a couple of steep cracks in the left side of pinnacles on the arête lead to easy moves up the final wall. It was excellent climbing in a very atmospheric position. We took 2 hours from arriving at the base of the crag to the top of the route (30 minutes more than planned).We took the Back Staircase down to Great Hells Gate. This is a fairly easy scramble in the top section but the last few moves involve a traverse left (looking out) and are quite exposed. I would suggest that anyone who had climbed Tophet Wall would not much difficulty using this route which makes for a much quicker descent. We had carried our boots on the root for the screes of Great Hells Gate, it was mostly ‘good’ scree, that allowed a quick return to our bags.
A swift packing of gear and retracing of our ascent route saw us at Wasdale Head in time for a quick pint. At least the quality of the beer was better than the mood of the bar staff. Once again it was great to get a full mountain route in on a school night!
After work on Friday we packed the burgers and rolls, put kayaks on the roof and headed to the road junction next to Wastwater. The Ollises had got there first and were nowhere to be seen. We headed towards the pumphouse and Mystery Island. As we neared the south-western shore we saw Lauren who was walking from the Youth Hostel.
It was a very pleasant evening, the burgers hit the spot and the views in the valley were beautiful especially as we paddled back. I was playing with our new camera again. A few of the results are below but I was very happy with this.
The best weather of the year so far coincided with Speech Day at school. That meant that our activities could start after 2pm and a lunchtime glass of wine. A rough outline of a plan had formed whilst trying to get to sleep on Friday night. We would use Saturday afternoon to walk up Scafell, climb a route in the evening, bivouac overnight before climbing on Scafell East Buttress on Sunday morning.Penny was convinced in the merit of my plan and at about 16:30 we left Brackenclose carrying rather heavy bags bound for Mickledore, the col between Scafell and Scafell Pike. We split the ascent into four sections: up to the ford, up to a large rock before the Pike path splits off, to the Woolworth boulder and then finally to the col. Each section involved about two hundred meters of ascent and took us about half an hour. At the Woolworth boulder we collected three litres of water, unsure of whether there would be a good water supply at our bivi site.
At Mickledore we left our bivi gear and donned our harnesses and helmets. We used Rake’s Progress to reach the foot of Botterill’s Slab (VS 4c). This was exposed and very slippery in places. There was one section that involved crossing some green, loose rocks that we protected with the rope. As we had walked up the valley we had seen two pairs on our intended route, which was in shadow. By the time we reached it the lower of these pairs were on the second pitch and the sun was on the slab.
The route itself was a great line, a long narrow slab with the best holds out by the arête on the left. The first pitch was a little wet but the main second pitch was great. A textured slab about 25 metres long with some good cracks for protection. The amount of air beneath my heels was exhilarating. The final pitch was a bit of a disappointment, it was a wet dirty chimney followed by some loose flakes. However the second pitch makes the climb. We had been a little concerned about the descent to Mickledore, it is mostly a scramble but the lest few metres involve down climbing Broad Stand, a notorious diff that is one of WMRT’s blackspots. We scrambled most of the way down and then headed left (looking out) right above Mickledore where a short abseil reunited us with our bags. We had started the route at 19:30, topped out at 21:10 and got back to our bags about 21:45. We headed down about 300m (horizontally) towards Great Moss, where a small enclosure had been built on a flat and dry patch of grass. This would be home for the night (see photo). A hasty (and well deserved) tuna and cous cous was consumed before retiring to bed with a good view of Jupiter, the Moon and some of the brightest stars. In the morning we woke to see East Buttress in full sunshine. Others had the two-hour walk in to reach it but we had a head start and after a five-minute walk we were under Mickledore Grooves (VS 4c). The start proved to be the crux and after a few difficult moves an easy rightward ramp was reached. This led to a groove that in turn led to another groove. Moving between these was also a little tricky and felt exposed. Penny had a difficult time starting this pitch as her leader had placed his first piece of gear to the side of the climb. This left the start unprotected, instead she climbed, and swore at, a harder section to the right of the normal start. The second pitch was fun, climbing good rock in an excellent situation up a slab and then a groove. I managed to reach a belay but only on rope stretch. Another scramble descent and abseil was followed by a trip down to fetch the bags. By 11.00 we were eating our lunch as other teams were arriving to climb. A hot but quick descent was only punctuated by a stop to cool our feet in the beck just before the ford.
Given the amount of time and effort required to walk in and out I think our plan worked well. Scafell in the evening was magical but I doubt that it would be possible to get more than one route in the sunshine. The East Buttress in the morning was also great, and if a party had more stamina it would be possible to move onto Pike’s Crag for the afternoon!
This is an overdue write-up of last Sunday’s trip up Pillar. For one reason or another I haven’t got round to writing it until now. Penny had decided to stay at home to try to shake off her cold. I decided to look for some scrambling and solo mountaineering that would allow me to cover a large distance of interesting ground on rock. I consulted Scrambles and Easy Climbs in the Lake District and their Pillar Expedition caught my eye. This book has some excellent suggestions for mountaineering days out. I would highly recommend it to anyone who is keen on scrambling or easy rock climbs.
At this time of year I was able to have a leisurely start with now worries of benightment. This was the first time I had walked into Mosedale on the left side of the beck, it gave a different view and was a pleasant, grassy path. My first objective was Wistow Crags, a series of three tiers of solid rock that lead from Mosedale up towards Pillar’s summit. After the calm relaxing walk to the Y boulder and crossing the beck descending from Scoat Fell there was a steep ascent to the start of the scramble. Panting and sweating my way up with an ascent rate of between 12 and 16 metres a minute I quickly covered the 350m of hight gain.
The scramble itself is graded grade 2 and is given three stars. The guidebook gives a rough outline of a route but to be honest just heading upwards looking for the cleanest rock and most logical line worked for me. To keep some idea where you are the route has three sections. Initially there are two large buttresses one above the other separated by a large grassy ledge and then the gullies from either side get closer and the route becomes a ridge before finishing just below the path from Black Sail Pass to Pillar. It was on this final section that I saw a large fox, it seemed to be sunbathing and looked at me disdainfully before wandering off. There were many possible lines and routes that could be taken on the way up. I think my way was mainly grade 2 scrambling but did have some exposed moved of about diff. The rock was clean, dry and grippy (one advantage of being south-facing) but there were some loose blocks and was always climbing within myself well aware that I could not afford a loose hold to cause me to fall.
I had lunch just before joining the relatively busy path and then headed over Pillar’s summit and descended to the col above Pillar Rock and Pisgah. Here I left my bag and just took my rock boots with me as I descended to the west.
My next target was New West route on Pillar High Man. This is a classic route from the days when Pillar was a popular venue. Once on the route it was obvious with over 100 years worth of polish on the holds. It was an easy way through impressive terrain, with a memorable traverse and chimney, all blessed with plentiful massive holds. Once on the top of High Man the next problem is getting down. A group before me had obviously decided to abseil and left behind some ‘booty’. I was going to reverse Slab and Notch (M), this was well-marked with plenty of well-worn holds. It involved descending an easy chimney and then following jugs round to the right (looking out). After dropping down an arête also on good holds, the notch is passed through on the way to the slab. This is ascended to the top left corner where a final few easy moves allow the path below to be reached.
To finish off my day I wanted to summit Pisgah. I headed up East Jordan Gully to Jordan Gap (more booty) and then made a few exposed scrambling moves round to the right. Whilst this looked improbable, it was fine. A few easy moves led to the summit of Pisgah and the easy descent to my bag.
I did all this climbing and scrambling with rock boots on and my big boots tied round my neck and tucked into my jacket, it’s a difficult call, the descent to the start of the routes is unpleasant scree but the climbing would be better without carrying boots.
From here the most sensible (and interesting) route back to Wasdale Head would have been to follow the High Level Route. However I was on a high after all my scrambling and decided to reascend the hundred or so metres back up to Pillar (and the sunshine) and then follow the path towards Black Sail Pass. I cut the corner at Looking Stead and headed down breaking into a jog at times.
It was a great day, excellent mountaineering, solitude and sunshine on Wistow Crags, history and atmosphere on Pillar.
Posted from my iphone, photos and proofreading to follow.